Getting documents notarized when to go to the citizen’s office, when to go to the notary public?

School certificates, birth certificates, land register excerpts – there are two types of certifications: official and public. What you need to know about the subject.

  1. The most important facts about notarizations
  2. Who is allowed to certify – and what does it cost??
  3. What is a Unter-schrifts-beglaubigung?
  4. When does a health care proxy have to be publicly certified??
  5. How can I have documents authenticated abroad??

The most important facts about credentials

Good to know: Testimonies are a special case. If you need a transcript, you can also contact your old school or college – and if you are a church member, you can even contact the parish office of your congregation. People who want to study abroad, get married or buy real estate, for example, and need notarizations to do so, have to comply with other formalities.

Transcript Authentication: Documents from or for authorities

In an official certification, the original is from an authority or the copy is for an authority. For example, if you need a certified copy of your ID card, the Citizen’s Office can issue it for you. This certifies that the copy corresponds to the original. Lawyers, accountants, auditors and associations are not allowed to certify officially. In addition to the authorities, notaries are always authorized to certify the documents.

Personal status documents are issued only by the issuing authority

For personal status documents, such as birth, marriage and death certificates, it may be necessary to go to the registry office that issued the document. For example, to apply for a certificate of inheritance, the heir needs his birth certificate and the decedent’s death certificate. If he has only a simple copy of his birth certificate, this must be certified – only the responsible registry office can do this. However, if a certified copy already exists, a notary, for example, can also make and certify another copy.

Basic book excerpt: Office or notary

Similarly, extracts from the land registry can be issued by the relevant land registry office. A notary also has secure online access to the land register. So this person can also certify extracts from the basic book, but to do so he must have drawn the extract to be certified himself.

Official certification only with original document

For an official certification the original document is basically required. This must be unchanged. If words have been crossed out or the document has been recognizably corrected, e.g. by Tipp-Ex or crossings out, it will sometimes not be recognized. In addition, the document should be complete.

Get copies notarized – with signature and seal

The certification must also have certain characteristics: It must be provided with a note stating that the copy agrees with the original. The certifier must sign the copy. In addition, the imprint of an official seal must be recognizable. Notary Barbara Winter from Berlin says: "If the writing stretches over several pages, it must be connected with string and seal."Means: A firm connection of the individual sides is necessary, together with certification note with seal and signature.

Tip: It is usually cheaper to take a copy of the document to be certified to the certification office.

Special case Hesse: Here also local courts certify

Hesse is the only federal state in which there are local courts. These do not speak law, but rather are there to provide important assistance to citizens and authorities. Every municipality has at least one local court. Local courts can certify signatures and copies. The prerequisite for this is that the person seeking advice has his main or secondary residence in the area of the local court. The fee for a signature certification is 6 Euro, a copy certification costs 3 Euro for up to 3 pages, each additional page costs 50 Cent.

Who is allowed to certify – and what does it cost??

In addition to citizens’ offices, city halls and notaries, the authorities that are allowed to certify copies of certificates also include statutory health insurance companies and churches with a public-law organization, i.e. at least the parish offices of Catholic and Protestant congregations. Church members usually pay only a few euros for certification. It is also convenient in schools and universities, where former pupils and students can have their old certificates authenticated.

Tip: Some statutory health insurance companies even certify certificates free of charge.

The cost of certification

As a rule, certifications at the Burgeramt cost between 5 and 10 euros. Also notaries can certify testimonies officially. This can cost more: 10 euros per document or 1 euro per page that is to be certified, in each case plus value-added tax. The customer always pays the more expensive variant.

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What is a signature certification??

All notaries, German embassies and German consulates are allowed to certify signatures. Notary Winter explains: "The evidentiary value of this document is simply different."In the course of certifying a signature, a notary does not check the validity of the original. It is only confirmed that the signature on a document really comes from the person who has made it in the presence of the official person. A signature certification is necessary, for example, if someone wants to found an association. Winter: "The person signing must appear in person before the notary. Remote notarizations are unreliable. If a representative appears, this must be authorized and prove this."

Tip: If you need a signature notarized, you can contact a notary via the search for a notary.

No land register entry without public certification

If property owners want to change entries in the land register, for example to delete a land charge, this can only be done with the public certification of their signature by a notary public. Such a certification is also required for trade and association register applications. The costs depend on the value and scope of the notary’s activity.

Attention: The signature certification is not to be confused with a certification by the notary. The certification not only provides proof of the signature, but also records the content.

Notarizations are often necessary in family and inheritance law: Marriage and inheritance contracts, adoptions and acknowledgments of paternity must be notarized. In order to disclaim an inheritance, however, certification of the signature is sufficient.

When does a health care proxy need to be publicly certified??

Only a few formal requirements apply to health care powers of attorney, in which someone appoints another person to represent him or her in certain matters such as health care, nursing care or insurance. A hand-written text or a form with signature is sufficient. The situation is different if a power of attorney is granted in addition to the health care proxy, for example for real estate transactions. In this case, the power of attorney must be certified by a notary public, or in some cases even notarized.

Tip: You can find all the important information on the subject of legal provisions for the future in our comprehensive special on health care proxies& Living will.

Notarization of signatures from 10 Euro

In principle, a distinction must be made between certification and authentication. Notarizations can also be made by the guardianship authority. These options are available:

Notarization of the signature by a guardianship authority. The grantor of the power of attorney can have his signature notarized by a guardianship authority, also known as a guardianship office in some federal states. This so-called "public" certification of signatures may cost a maximum of 10 euros. Attention: The seal of the authority only confirms the identity of the authorizer. There is no examination of the content of the power of attorney for precautionary measures. Power-of-attorney givers can find the competent care authority for them with our care authority finder. The competence of the authority depends on the place of residence.
With website to find a care authority in your area:

Certification of the signature by a notary public. A certification of the signature is also possible at a notary. Here, fees usually range from 20 euros to around 80 euros, depending on the scope of the documents. The signature is then publicly certified. There is no content check of the precautionary power of attorney.

Notarization of the health care proxy with a notary public. A notary also advises on a health care power of attorney. He drafts a document and clarifies the scope and risks of formulations. Notarized powers of attorney for health care have a high value in legal transactions. They are usually also recognized by banks. The fees are fixed by law and are usually based on half of the assets in the case of precautionary documents. A notarization costs around 200 euros for assets of 100,000 euros and around 350 euros for assets of 250,000 euros.

Independently. Objective. Incorruptible.

How to have documents legalized for abroad?

If you want to use a German public document abroad – for example, because you want to work, marry or adopt a child there – you usually have to take other formalities into account for certification. The prerequisites depend on the current bilateral agreement between Germany and the respective country. Basically there are two forms of certification: the "legalization" and the "apostille". Both confirm the authenticity of the signature and the authority of the issuer of the document.


The apostille is a simplified proof of authenticity and possible for all countries of the Hague Convention from 1961. Issued by a designated authority. In the case of notaries, this is the locally responsible district court president. Currently, 100 countries are listed for which the excess income is applicable in relation to Germany, including all member states of the EU.

For the EU countries, however, the entry into force of the European Apostille Regulation on 16 December 2004 has eliminated the need for legalization.2.In 2019, any formality in personal status documents in a broad sense – such as documents used to prove birth, death, name, marriage and divorce, registered partnerships, parentage, adoption and citizenship.

In addition, Germany has additional bilateral agreements with Belgium, France, Italy and Austria, which also dispense with any formality, including the apostille, for other documents.


Legalization is carried out by the foreign representative office of the country in which the document is to be used. In case of doubt, you should ask them in advance about the form requirements.

The procedure differs from country to country and involves several steps: First, a German authority or a notary must certify the document. For notarial documents, pre-certification must then be carried out by the local district court president, and for official documents by another authority – in Berlin, for example, the State Office for Civil and Regulatory Affairs for civil status documents or registration certificates.

Some countries such as China, Qatar or Myanmar require in addition to the pre-certification a final certification by the Foreign Office, which has transferred the task to the Federal Office of Administration in Cologne.

This special is updated regularly. Latest update: 15. June 2021.

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